Politico relays that Georgia Rep. David Scott's colleagues in the Democratic caucus "widely expect him not to run" again in his dark blue seat; Scott, who has a history of siding with Republicans, has not commented publicly, though. Two House Republicans who identify with the declining institutionalist wing of the GOP, Arkansas' Steve Womack and Idaho's Mike Simpson, tell the Washington Post in a separate report that they're considering retiring from their safely red seats.
We’ll start with Scott, whose performance as the top Democrat on the Agriculture Committee has been the subject of much intra-party frustration. His lack of a response to Republican efforts to cut food assistance programs—in a new report, Politico says that he hasn't held a single press conference on the topic this year—apparently prompted Democrats to form a special task force, led by Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, to take point on the issue.
The unusual move seems to have been prompted by concerns about Scott's health. Last year, Politico reported that people close to Scott "acknowledged he’s noticeably slowed in the last few years, citing his increasingly halting speech and trouble at times focusing on a topic."
Politico's article this week says that Scott "no longer speaks with reporters in the halls of the Capitol"; in June, when one reporter was actually able to ask the congressman how a hearing had gone, the congressman replied, "I don't know." "There are real questions about whether he’s with it," an unnamed House colleague told Politico of the 78-year-old Georgian.
Scott, who was first elected in 2002 with support from his late brother-in-law, the legendary Atlanta Braves Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, has long been one of the more conservative members of his caucus. The Democrat crossed party lines in 2016 to back Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson’s bid for reelection, declaring, "He's my friend. He's my partner. And I always look out for my partners." Scott, who donated to Utah GOP Rep. Mia Love's campaign that year, has also sided with Republicans to undermine regulations aimed at reining in predatory payday lenders and preventing auto dealers from charging higher interest rates to people of color.
If the congressman does surprise his colleagues and run again, though, his renomination in this safely blue suburban Atlanta seat is hardly assured. Scott unexpectedly earned just 53% of the vote in a crowded 2020 primary against several underfunded foes—just a few points more than the majority he needed to avert a runoff against former state Rep. Keisha Waites. (Waites, who is now a member of the Atlanta City Council, took 25%.) The incumbent did better last cycle when he turned back South Fulton City Councilor Mark Baker 66-13, though that performance wasn't emphatic for a longtime incumbent.
Meanwhile there’s Womack, a self-described "institution guy" who told the Post's Paul Kane that the far-right's antics have made serving in D.C. "so unpleasant" that he's weighing retirement and would decide whether he's had enough around Labor Day. After the article was published, though, the seven-term congressman backtracked somewhat.
"To be clear, I am frustrated with the state of play in Congress," he tweeted. "[H]owever I have every intention of running for reelection and using my work to fix the institution I love." He still left the door open to leaving, though. "I have always used Labor Day as the time frame for these decisions," he continued. "I take nothing for granted and I’m honored every day to serve my constituents in Arkansas’ Third District."
But while Womack, in Kane's words, is tired of seeing "his party’s leadership kowtowing to a small band of hard-right lawmakers," the story notes that his friends fear one of those hardliners would simply replace him in this northeast Arkansas seat. Womack himself has never had trouble winning renomination, though that hardly means he'd be in for another easy campaign if he ran again: Last year, Rep. French Hill, another member of the GOP minority that recognized Biden's victory, only won his primary for the neighboring 2nd District by a relatively soft 59-41 margin against a foe who was happy to spread the Big Lie.
Simpson, finally, made it clear he shares Womack's grievances. "I think there’s a lot of people like that, to tell you the truth," he told Kane." It’s just people considering: Is this really worth it?" And the answer for the Idaho Republican may be no: "Right now, I’m running again," he said before, as Kane puts it, "pausing for effect" and finishing, "Right now." Unlike Womack, though, Simpson did not provide a timeline for when he expects to make up his mind.
The 72-year-old Simpson is only six years older than his likeminded colleague from the South, but unlike Womack, Simpson just had to fend off an organized attempt to beat him in last year's primary. In that matchup, the incumbent fended off attorney Bryan Smith 55-33 after an expensive fight for an eastern Idaho constituency Simpson first won in 1998. The congressman, who had also turned back Smith 62-38 in 2014, didn't come close to losing, but his declining vote share could foreshadow more tough races to come―if he tries to stick around, that is.
No matter what Womack, Simpson, or Scott do in 2024, however, there's almost certainly plenty of other House members from both parties who are thinking about whether they want to remain in office. Currently just two representatives―California Democrat Grace Napolitano and Indiana Republican Victoria Spartz—have announced they're leaving the chamber and not campaigning for another office. And while just two outright retirements might seem like very few so far, that's in keeping with patterns over the last two decades.
According to data compiled by Daily Kos Elections since the 2005-06 election cycle, an average of about three House incumbents have decided to say goodbye to elective politics altogether before Aug. 1 of each odd-numbered year. That means we can expect many more to call it a career ahead of the 2024 elections, though we'll likely be waiting well into the new year for some decisions.